30 Days of Thanks: Take Time on Veterans Day to Remember Those Who Served Our Country

Veterans Day - Trevor Morgan

When I was 18 years old – fresh out of high school – I joined the military, fully planning on making it my career. Every man in my family had served, and it was a no-brainer for me to serve also. My country roots run deep and part of that is service to your country.

I proudly served for six years, and my main job was Master-at-Arms. While in the service, I lost my best friend – one of the best people I have ever known – to an enemy attack. During my time in the service, I had multiple injuries and was honorably discharged due to them. Here I was, age 25 and considered permanently disabled.  

The meaning of Veterans Day for me changed the minute my friend lost his life for our great country. There’s a saying that all of us write a blank check to everyone in the United States. It’s a check that is written by the men and women who serve, in the amount up to and including our life – to protect our country.

My friend answered the call of his country and laid down his life for that call.

It’s very important for every American to be proud of the men and women – past and present – who have served our country. Whenever I see a person wearing a military service hat I make sure to thank that person for their service. I have spoken to so many disabled veterans and feel a surge of pride knowing they still feel the pull of service to their country.

No one enlists for attention or glory. We signed up for service. It breaks my heart when I see veterans – young or old – who have given so much yet don’t even get so much as a simple thank you. 

This year, Veterans Day falls on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Fly your flag with honor and pride. Take a moment to thank the veterans in your life. We’re your family members, colleagues, neighbors, teachers, police officers and firefighters. We’re in every walk of life and occupation in this great country of ours. Take time to go to a graveyard – any graveyard – and reflect for a moment the sacrifices made by those who laid down their life to serve our country.

30 Days of ThanksEditor's note: Share your gratitude
This November, explore the incredible, dream-inspiring powers of gratitude! Visit us on Dream Protectors for inspiration and ideas for your own 30 Days of ThanksThen join the conversation! Share your own thankful thoughts and gratitude-inspired stories in the comments. You can also post them on our Facebook page, send us a tweet during November, or visit our #30DaysOf Thanks Tagboard!

30 Days of Thanks: Celebrating Gratitude, Nature and Family

30 Days of Thanks American Family Insurance

It’s 3 a.m. The thermometer reads 28 degrees. The trailer is packed, and I start my 90-minute drive in complete darkness. I pull up to the landing. I’m the first one here. “Good,” I think to myself, and begin my long paddle, cracking through skim ice over the pond.

The sound is deafening in this otherwise silent dawn.

Splash! Five dozen decoys carefully placed across the water. My hands start to numb and my lips grow chapped from the cold – but I don’t care. A small cup of warm coffee soothes me as I watch the peach hue of the rising sun, reflecting off the marsh that surrounds me. The wind is picking up. “Even better,” I think to myself, surveying my setup one more time. Everything looks good – I’m ready.  Suddenly, the sound of whistling wings flutters from overhead.

I’ve arrived.

It’s moments like this – surrounded by the wind, the waves and the wildlife, where time seems to stand still. There is a sense of calm I get when the sun is about to peek over the horizon. An inner peace I feel when I can focus on the truly important things in life, and the noise and the stress of the day-to-day are easily dismissed.

It’s moments like this that allow me to recharge my batteries, refocus my outlook, and find renewed inspiration to pursue my next dream.

It’s moments like this that make it clear all that I have to be grateful for: My beautiful, healthy wife and daughters and the loving, warm home we have created. My mother and father, for giving me the tools, knowledge and courage to be adventurous and successful. My past failures, for all the ways they’ve taught me to do better and BE better.

Perhaps you have experienced similar moments to what I’ve described. Maybe it was like me – in the stillness of nature – maybe it was somewhere else. Wherever it was, I suspect that you emerged back into your day-to-day life happier, healthier and humbled by the incredible people and things that surround you. 

That’s why I am so excited to see American Family once again celebrate the power of gratitude during 30 Days of Thanks. November is a truly wonderful time to reflect on our blessings – to step back, slow down and savor the benefits of gratitude.

Maybe it’s because it reminds me to grab hold of those thankful moments – like mine in the wilderness. Maybe it’s because I see my fellow coworkers embracing the message and showing their heartfelt thanks to one another. And maybe – it’s simply because practicing gratitude is one of those transcendent experiences, which helps us see life for the beautiful thing it is.

So I ask you – where will you find YOUR next moment of gratitude?

Editor's note: Share your gratitude
This November, explore the incredible, dream-inspiring powers of gratitude! Visit us on Dream Protectors for inspiration and ideas for your own 30 Days of ThanksThen join the conversation! Share your own thankful thoughts and gratitude-inspired stories in the comments. You can also post them on our Facebook page, send us a tweet during November, or visit our #30DaysOf Thanks Tagboard!

When You Give, Everyone Benefits

United WayWe can all relate to a stressful day. Recently, I had an opportunity to feel a different kind of stress.

It was the second time I participated in the United Way poverty simulation at work. The three-hour simulation gives you a chance to role-play a scenario that many of us, hopefully, haven’t experienced in real life.

A year ago, my role was a child living with a grandmother who needed to work to keep a roof over our heads. This year, I helped guide participants through the simulation in the role of a police officer.

What I learned playing the child role is children in poverty often miss the chance to be kids. That’s sad. I think of the experiences and opportunities my own children have had  that these kids never will. Kids in poverty are often expected to take on adult roles and responsibilities at a very young age. They’re forced into adult situations they should never have to be in. They have to make decisions about immediate needs, not thinking about long-term consequences.

When a family lives in poverty, the kids want to help. It’s interesting to see how they step up often at the sacrifice of their childhood. Children in poverty often lack the support most of us are able to give our kids.

This year in my cop role – I felt a different kind of stress and hopelessness. In this role, it felt as though there was too much going on and things were chaotic. I spent a lot of my time dealing with truancy and less time offering to help.

In both experiences, my eyes were opened to the extent people will go to when they’re in difficult situations. For some, crime unfortunately becomes an attractive option. To protect and provide for family, sometimes good people are forced into bad situations. During the simulation I often wondered, “What would I do for my family?”

Last year after the simulation, I returned to my office and placed a handwritten sign on my window that said, “Ask me about the poverty simulation.” Many of you stopped by, and I shared what I learned from the experience.

This year, I thought about how giving to the United Way improves the communities we live in. Giving is more than helping those in need. When we give, it comes back to you and me. When people are given a hand-up out of poverty, they’re able to participate more fully in their communities. There’s often less crime, less tax on local services and government assistance. When everyone is able to contribute to a better neighborhood, community or city – we all benefit. 

Thinking Big Part Two: We All Have Our Mountains to Climb

Anthony Montarsi

More than a year ago, I shared the A.C.T. acronym I use when goal setting. I had just suffered a catastrophic injury to both legs. I had to learn to walk again and deal with the pain, something I still experience two years later. Remember A.C.T.?  

 Accept your present state. And acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. 
 Create your desired state. Dream a little. Envision how you want to see things play out. 
T – Take action steps to get there.

Sometimes you get an opportunity to practice what you preach. Is it all talk, or do you really have the desire to achieve a goal? During a recent visit to Banff, Alberta, Canada, that opportunity presented itself.

That opportunity came in the form of a mountain climb at Lake Louise. The destination was Lake Agnes Tea House, and the climb was described as strenuous, with steep sections, 2.2 miles one way with an elevation gain of 1,300 feet.

I told my wife, Shelli, I didn’t think I was ready for it. She said she would be with me every step of the way, and had never seen me unable to overcome a little adversity when I set my mind on accomplishing a goal.

Then I ran into Todd Fancher, American Family Life Insurance Company president, and he mentioned the Tea House climb. In passing he said, “Oh, you can do it.” Sometimes people don’t understand the power of giving someone a little encouragement.

I was ready to give it a try.

After a quick picture at Lake Louise, we began the journey up the side of the mountain. Many times along the way, I wondered, what in the world we were doing, and how I was ever going to get back down. But after two hours we made it to Mirror Lake for a quick break and a chance to see the beautiful scenery below and a waterfall above. After another 45 minutes, we made it to the Tea House and the challenge was complete. What may have taken some an hour or two took me close to three hours. But when all was said and done, I had accomplished my goal.

So I challenge you. What mountain do you need to climb for the rest of 2014 and beyond?  Are there changes you need to make at work to achieve your goals, or is it a personal goal involving your health or family, for example?

We all have our mountains to climb. And with some encouragement and resolve, you can reach the top – one step at a time.

Are You (and Your Smartphone) Ready for Fall?

Fall smartphone apps

Has your personal menu of smartphone and tablet apps kept up with the changing seasons? With the thousands of apps available to smartphone and tablet users, here are some great (and free!) apps you can download to help out this fall.

Yankee Foliage – With the change of the seasons comes a change in the foliage. The Yankee Foliage “Leaf Peeper” app lets fans of fall colors review and report on fall color displays across the country. You can even rate the colors from green to peak to gone.

AccuWeather – As seasons change, so does the weather. Whether (no pun intended) we like it or not, the weather can sometimes be unpredictable. With this handy app, you can stay up to date on changing conditions in your area – or anywhere in the world if you’re traveling – and plan accordingly in terms of driving or what to wear.

Pumpkin Carver – If you're “carving challenged” or just looking for some new ideas, this app is just for you. You can use also this app to test out your Jack-'o-Lantern ideas before you actually carve – something you can’t do on a real pumpkin.

Cookbook – With so many holidays coming up, you may be running out of ideas as far as what to serve. Fortunately, there are all kinds of apps to help you with meal planning, menus and recipes.

‘Appy fall!

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